Nigerian E-Mail Scam Price Tag: $5,000 Per Victim - InformationWeek
02:19 PM

Nigerian E-Mail Scam Price Tag: $5,000 Per Victim

Half of victims of the fraud admit losing $5,000 or more, far more than any other online scam, a government report reveals.

Wonder how much people lose from that Nigerian E-mail scam--you know, the one in which millions of dollars will be yours if you only pony up some front money?

The answer: $5,000. Or at least that's the median loss among those who reported being taken by the fraud to federal authorities.

That's one tidbit in the 27-page 2005 Internet Crime Report issued Thursday by the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Known as IC3, the center is a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. This latter group is a congressionally funded, not-for-profit corporation consisting mostly of law enforcement agencies, state regulatory bodies with criminal investigative authority, and state and local prosecution offices.

Last year, IC3 received 231,493 complaints online, up 12% from 2004 and 89% from 2003. These complaints consist of a variety of offenses, including auction frauds, reshipping schemes, counterfeit check schemes, hacking and computer intrusion attempts, and child pornography Web sites. IC3 analyzed 97,076 of last year's complaints to develop a picture of the current state of online fraud.

Of that 97,076, some 2.7% claimed to be victims of the Nigerian E-mail fraud. Do the math, and more than 1,300 people paid $5,000 or more to the fraudsters for that one scam, the highest of any of the frauds. Check fraud ranked No. 2 in financial losses, with a median loss of $3,800 per victim. Other types of confidence schemes accounted for a median loss of $2,025.

Other findings in the report:

* Total dollar loss from referred cases topped $183.1 million, with a median dollar loss of $424 per complaint.

* Internet auction fraud made up nearly two-thirds of complaints, with nondelivered merchandise and/or nonpayment accounting for 16% of complaints.

* Men represented three-quarters of perpetrators, with half the lawbreakers living in California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Men more than women--by a 64-36 margin--were likely to file a complaint. The average age of a complainant was 40. One third of complainants came from California, Florida, Texas, and New York.

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